Thursday, May 9, 2013

Tramp (Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, 1967)

Good morning!

Matthew and I were sitting around last night after a fun dinner date at Las Maracas with the Huberts (alias, the best people to go get margaritas with), when the subject of Otis Redding came up. I had had "Just One More Day" inexplicably stuck in my head all day, and started running through a string of Youtube videos to illustrate to Matthew some of the finer points of the Stax recording artist's catalog. He is a good sport, and I am a complete nerd when it comes to music I like. Two things that go great together-- me, pontificating on sixties' soul and me, four frozen margaritas into a tequila buzz. At any rate, some of my favorite FAVORITE favorite Otis Redding songs come from this album, King and Queen, which the Big O cut in 1967 alongside fellow soul singer Carla Thomas:

A Youtube search brought up the expected list of videos with still photos of the singer, or a stationary still of the album cover, when what to my wondering eyes should appear....they did a promo video of the song "Tramp"?! Featuring Otis Redding interpreting the lyrics relatively literally? It was like Christmas came early, kids. Take a look:

OH. MY. GOD. Is that Otis in Liberty Overalls with a freakin' hoe in one hand and an expression like, "You got me all wrong?" on his open face? It is. The song, originally recorded by Lowell Fulson, is adapted for the  Otis/Carla duet as a rollicking back and forth insult slingin' session, in which Carla thinks Otis's backwoods ways are a detriment to the future of their relationship, and Otis, dissimilarly, thinks them a strength. 

Verse the first:
Carla: Tramp.
Otis: What you call me?
Carla: Tramp.
Otis: Oh you did?
Carla: You don´t wear continental clothes or stetson hats.
Otis: But I tell you one doggone thing.
It makes me feel good to know one thing.
I know I am a lover.
Carla: A matter of opinion, baby.
Otis: That´s all right. Mama was.
Carla: So?
Otis: Papa, too. And I know little child. Love is all I know to do.

I'm a big fan of the story song, or the spoken word song, or the "you're no good" song, so you can see where this marvelous track intersects on a few fault lines of "fabulous". The album itself is uneven, with "Lovey Dovey" and "Knock on Wood" being the other two standout tracks, but with those three? Heck, it was well worth the price of the record itself!

I almost die every time he hits this exchange, near the end:

Carla: You´re a rat and a tramp. You know what, Otis.
I don´t care what you say, you´re still a tramp.
Otis: What?
Carla: That´s right. You haven´t even got a fat bank roll in your pocket,
you probably haven´t even got twenty five cents.
Otis: I got six Cadillacs, five Lincolns, four Fords, six Mercurys,
three T-birds, Mustang - ooh I´m a lover.

And sure enough, in the video, Otis makes a pretty good case for the things he has, suddenly divested of his work clothes and clad in a slick green suit and tie. He points out the line of cars mentioned in the song, an airplane, and, possibly my favorite, his name on the office wall of Redwal Music, his music offices.

Could he be cuter? Could the idea for the video be more straightforward? In these pre-MTV days, a promotional video like this might play at the beginning of a movie reel in theaters, or feature prominently on a dance band show or variety show, to further sales of the recently released recording. Here's the Soul Brothers Top 20 from the June 22, 1967 issue of Jet magazine, showing the popular charting of "Tramp" at #12:

Things I would like to mention: this list would make a wonderful mix cd, completely intact, as is...and why is there band called "Dyke and the Blazers"? I'm going to have to look into this and get back to you. I know all about "Funky Kingston"...not sure about "Funky Broadway" (Side note: This title was apparently also recorded by the wicked Wilson Pickett...I'm still suspicious).

Anyway! It's a great video, and if you haven't seen it, you should watch the clip in its entirety on Youtube.

Fun facts about the album:

  • Isaac Hayes, of "Shaft" and South Park fame, plays keyboards on the King and Queen record. Huh! I think I knew he played piano, but not on this record, so wow.
  • Carla Thomas is the daughter of Rufus Thomas, Sun Records pioneer who originally cut the future Elvis hit "Hound Dog". My favorite song of his is "Tiger Man". Soul royalty!
  • Future US ambassador to Japan and fellow Tennessean Sen. Howard Baker wrote the liner notes to their album. I can't, in spite of much googling, find out what those liner notes are nor why he wrote them, and my copy of the record's at home. Who knows!
  • My beloved Salt n Pepa use the sample of Carla saying "Tramp" in their song of the same name. Get it, SnP! You go on and get it!

Are you a soul fan? What did you think of the "Tramp" video and the song itself? What Motown or Stax record music or recording artists really resonate with you?

IT'S THURSDAY, WE'RE ALMOST TO FRIDAY! I'll see you tomorrow with some more family snaps for Photo Friday. Til then!


  1. AAAAAAggggggghhhhh! I am SUCH a soul fan, Lisa! I love "Tramp" too, and I had no idea a video existed. Otis Redding wrote "Respect," I would like to point out! Sam and Dave are excellent, and Wilson Pickett's "Funky Broadway." I'm a big Sam Cooke fan too. That is an excellent list of songs, although I do not know them all.

    I grew up in Memphis and we heard a lot of soul music on the oldies radio. When I was in college (about 12 years ago) I listed to Memphis Soul Classics 103.5, and Isaac Hayes even had his own radio show, "How Buttered Love Songs." I would love to visit Memphis again and go to the Stax Museum. Thank you for this post.

    1. Oh, I'm so glad you enjoyed it! You could have picked my jaw up off the floor when I saw such a video had been made and I never knew about it!

      I wonder if there are any recordings out there of that Isaac Hayes radio show you mentioned, that sounds T-O-P-S!

  2. When you started playing it I thought you had put on SnP!!!

    1. Haha, shows what you know! :) I love to get to tell you about stuff.

  3. LOVE THIS POST!!! Diggin' it hard! Soul fans unite!! Thank you for bringing the Tramp video and Otis in Liberty overalls into my life. Carla Thomas = beautiful. I can't get enough of that dress!

    1. I knew you'd like it the most!!



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